A great European avantgarde art on display at Palazzo Cipolla UNTIL 3 APRIL 2016
In 1948 a group of artists from Northern Europe decides to lay the foundations of an avant-garde movement named "CoBrA" after the initials of the three capitals, which they come from (Copenhagen, Bruxelles e Amsterdam).
In open contrast with the academicism concomitant with regimes and the tradition of classical conventions, CoBrA takes its inspiration from the primitive art, the child's drawings and fantastic and grotesque motifs that are typical for Northern European cultures. It also advocates semi-abstract painting and the use of bright colours and violent paintstrokes.
CoBrA artists do not aim at modernising art, they want to set it free, instead, by giving vein to the innerest compulsions, until then repressed in the name of rationality. As a result, the works of art are considered under an expressionist and animistic point of view and compared to vital beings, and the style of painting becomes passional and instinctive, as innovative and shocking as that of children.
The group organises only two major exhibitions: the former at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1949, and the latter at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Liegi in 1951, only a few months before dissolving itself. Notwithstanding its very short duration, this movement -- a milestone in the European abstract expressionism -- plays a crucial role in overcoming the contrast between figurativeness and abstractism that is a key feature of the end of Fourties and the early Fifties, and has an unparalleled influence on the contemporary art, whose effects are still visible, nowadays.
CoBrA is not only an acronym: at first, the visitor thought (and thinks) of the snake, and this may be no coincidence: in psychoanalysis the snake is a symbol of renewal and change, and who else more than CoBrA artists wanted to break with the past? Tired of all the nationalisms that had led to the second World War, as well as annoyed by the avant-guardes that appeared to be too smug, calligraphic, and dominated by a surrealism unable to instill any emotion, the group members experimented new expressive forms. Thus they became a myth, a breeding ground for exploration and further developments, while maintaining their personal styles and techniques.
Christian Dotremont and Pierre Alechinski from Belgium, Asger Jorn and Carl-Henning Pedersen from Denmark, and Karel Appel, Constant and Corneille from the Netherlands are among the most representative CoBrA artists.
The many works of art on display (around 150 pieces) are arranged to highlight the personal artistic path of each CoBrA member. On display mostly paintings but also photographs, videos, drawings, and reviews, altogether contribuing to recreate the poetics and the art of CoBrA group.
Some pieces have an explosive expressive power: like the painting begging children by Karel Appel, where poor children are portrayed in the act of begging at a railway station: a masterpiece of expressiveness, austere and disturbing, where the semiabstractism aims at (and succeeds in) intensifying the emaciation of the children, easily recognisable due to their big eyes and stretched hands.
CoBrA artists made various and heterogeneous experiences. After participating in the establishment of the Dutch Experimental Group, Corneille was one of the founders of CoBrA together with Appel, Constant, Jorn and Dotremont. He was one of the more active promoters of the first international exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum. Besides, he travelled a great deal between 1948 and 1951, visiting Tunisia, Algeria and the Hoggar Mountains. The exotic influence of such experiences is evident both in the subjects portrayed, colours and forms of his paintings.
Christian Dotremont, poet, theorist and founder of the Group, continues to seek an expressive mean half-way between art and poetry, until he discovers -- almost by chance -- the logogrammes, texts where the writing prevails on the meaning (he understood the beauty of the signs while watching his writing on papers the wrong way around). He was the editor-in-chief of the Group's magazine, participated in all of CoBrA's main events, and created the “painting-words” series with Jorn in 1948-49.
Carl-Henning Pedersen is a CoBrA theorist and artist. Before the establishment of the Group, he publishes on the review Helhesten the article Abstract Art or imaginary, where he already gives a complete and precise definition of the practical principles for the new generation of painters that he belongs to. This definition is not far from the future programme of CoBrA Group. In his works, Pedersen lets the Nordic tradition emerge by painting castles, kings, princesses, suitors and animals that look like they have come out of a legend through a dream, as in his masterpiece Frieren (der Verehrer). He also drew the cover of the first issue of the Cobra review.
The events organised by Fondazione Roma Museo Palazzo Cipolla have always been brilliantly designed and realised in an efficient and effective manner. This exhibition is no exception.
Reduced-price tickets for families, free audio guides for adults and children, customised tours, and workshops for children are available.
This is an exhibition that is well worth visiting, even if you are not enthusiast admirers of contemporary art and abstractism.
FONDAZIONE ROMA MUSEO DI PALAZZO CIPOLLA
Tuesday - Sunday h 11.00 am - 8.00 pm
Closed on Mondays
The ticket office service ends an hour before closing times.